The payday for the winner of this year's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race could be two times more than it has been in previous years.
Officials from Charlotte Motor Speedway revealed on Tuesday that an additional $1 million will go to one driver who wins all four 20-lap segments and then takes the checkered flag for the final 10-lap segment in the all-star (non- points) race, which is scheduled for May 18. Jimmie Johnson won last year's event, collecting $1.07 million.
Track president Marcus Smith and defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski unveiled a car made out of $1 million while announcing the bonus for the all-star race.
"I don't have a strategy but to win," Keselowski said. "I'm just going to go out there and race as hard as I can to lead every lap, win every segment. And now it looks like I've got reason to do so."
The length of the race will remain the same as last year -- five segments for a total of 90 laps. A mandatory four-tire pit stop before the start of the final segment will continue as well.
However, NASCAR has tweaked the format. After the completion of the fourth segment (Lap 80), the running order will be repositioned based on average finish during the first four segments. The highest average finisher will lead the field onto pit road for the required stop. Then the order of the cars returning to the track will determine how they lineup for the 10-lap sprint to the finish.
"I think last year we had some of the best segments leading up to the 10-lap shootout that we've ever seen," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. "This year puts more importance on every lap because of the finishes being averaged into each other. So I think it's a step to really heighten the competition."
NASCAR changed the race format in 2012. The winners of the first four 20-lap segments moved up to the front of the field before the mandatory pit stop. Johnson won the first segment but played it safe by running in the back of the field during the next two rounds. He led all of the final 10 laps for the win.
"This new format is going to make the teams step up," said Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, who attended the all-star race announcement. "You can't win this thing if you're not going to be in the top-six for that final segment. So you're really going to have to push hard to make sure you get some good average finishes."
Johnson, the five-time series champion, won the Daytona 500 for the second time on Sunday.
The eligibility requirements for the all-star race stay the same. Eighteen drivers, including Johnson and Keselowski, are currently eligible. The top-two finishers from the preliminary event and the fan vote winner will be added to the field.
Any additional drivers who win a Sprint Cup race prior to the all-star event become eligible as well.